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sure, and put some kind of check to the extreme su- PROP. perstition and wickedness of the nations wherein they lived; yet none of these have ever been able to reform the world with any considerable great and uni- . versal success, because they have been but very few that have in earnest set themselves about this excel. lent work; and they that have indeed sincerely done it have theṁselves been entirely ignorant of some doctrines, and very doubtful and uncertain of others, absolutely necessary for the bringing about that great end ; and those things which they have been certain of, and in good measure understood, they have not been able to prove and explain clearly enough; and those that they have been able both to prove and explain by sufficiently clear reasoning, they have not yet had authority enough to enforce and inculcate upon men's minds with so strong an impression as to influence and govern the general practice of the world.
1. There have, indeed, in almost every age been, in the heathen world, some wise, and brave, and good men, who have made it their business to study and practise the duties of natural religion themselves, and to teach and exhort others to do the like: An eminent instance whereof, in the eastern nations, the Scripture itself affords us in the history of Job; concerning whom it does not certainly appear that he knew any positive revealed institution of religion, or that, before his sufferings, any immediate revelation was made to him, as there was to Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs. Among the Greeks Socrates seems to be an extraordinary example of this kind, concerning whom Plato tells us, in his apology,* that he did nothing else but go continually about, persuading both old and young, not to be so
* 'Ουδέν γάρ άλλο πράττων εγώ περιέρχομαι, ή πείθων υμών και νεωτέρες και πρεσβυτέρες, μήτε σωμάτων επιμελείσθαι, μήτε χρηματων πρότερον, μήτε άλλα τινός,έτω σφόδρα, ώς της ψυχής, όπως ως αρίστη έσται λέγων, ότι εκ εκ χρημάτων ή αρετή γίνεται, αλλ' εξ αρέλης χρήματα και τάλλα ταγαθά τους ανθρώποις άπαντα, και ιδία και δημοσίφ.-Plato in Apol. Socrat.
PROP. much solicitous to gratify the appetites of the body, VI.
or to heap up wealth, or to raise themselves to honour, or gain any outward advantage whatsoever : as to improve the mind, by the continual exercise of all virtue and goodness : Teaching them, that a man's true value did not arise from his riches, or from any outward circumstances of life ; but that true riches, and every real good, whether public or private, proceeded wholly from virtue. After him, Plato and Aristotle and others followed his example, in teaching morality. And among the Romans, Cicero, and in later times, Epictetus and Antoninus, and several others, gave the world admirable systems of ethics, and noble moral instructions and exhortations, of excellent use and benefit to the generations wherein they live, and deservedly of great value and esteem even unto this day.
2. So that I think, it may very justly be supposed,
that these men were raised up and designed by Prosigned by vidence, (the abundant goodness of God having
never left itself wholly without witness, notwithbear wit. standing the greatest corruptions and provocations
of mankind,) as instruments to reprove in some wickedness measure, and put some kind of check to the extreme against the of the na- superstition and wickedness of the nations wherein wherein they lived ; or at least to bear witness against, and they lived. condemn it. Concerning Job, the case is evident and
confessed. And for the same reason, some of the ancientest writers of the church have not scrupled to call even Socrates also,* and some others of the best of the heathen moralists, by the name of Christians; and to affirm, that, as the law was as it were
Who seem to have been de
+ Και οι μετά λόγου βιώσαλες, Χριστιανόι είσι, καν άθεοι ένομίσθησαν· οίον έν "Ελλησι μεν Σωκράτης και Ηράκλειτος, και οι όμοιοι αυτοίς εν βαρβάρους os 'Apady, &c.- Justin, Apolog. 2.
* Τάχα δε και προηγουμένως τοϊς "Ελλησιν εδόθη η φιλοσοφία τότε, πριν ή τον κύριον καλέσαι και τες "Ελληνας επαιδαγώγει γας και αυτή το Ελληνικόν, ώς ο νόμος τους Εβραίους εις Χριστόν προπαρασκευάζει τοινυν η φιλοσοφία, προοδοποιούσα τον υπό Χριστού τελειέμενον.-Clem. Alexand. Strom.
these men were ever
a schoolmaster to bring the Jews unto Christ, so true PROP. moral philosophy was to the gentiles a preparative to receive the gospel
. This perhaps was carrying the matter somewhat to far : But, to be sure, thus much we may safely assert, that* whatever any of these men were at any time enabled to deliver wisely and profitably, and agreeably to divine truth, was as a light shining in a dark place, derived to them by a ray of that infinite overflowing goodness, which does good to all even both just and unjust ; from God the sole fountain of all truth and wisdom : And this, for some advantage and benefit to the rest of the world, even in its blindest and most corrupt estate.
3. But then, notwithstanding the most that can But yet be made of this supposition, it is certain the effect none of of all the teaching and instruction even of the best of the philosophers in the heathen world, was in com- able to reparison very small and inconsiderable. They never world were able to reform the world with any great and with any universal success, nor to keep together any consider-able suc: able number of men in the knowledge and practice cess. of true virtue. With respect to the worship of God, idolatry prevailed universally in all nations; and, notwithstanding men did indeed know God, so as to be without excuse, yet " they did not like to retain him in their knowledge, but became vain in their Rom. i, 21 imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, —28. and they changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into images” of the vilest creatures; and no philosophers ever turned any great number of men from ihis absurd idolatry, to the acknowledgment and worship of the only true God. In respect of men's dealings one with another, honour and interest, and friendship, and laws, and the necessity of society, did indeed cause justice to be practised in many heathen nations to a great degree; but very few men
* ο θεός γάρ αυτούς ταύτα, και όσα καλώς λέλέκται, εφανέρωσε.-Orig. advers. Cels. lib. 6.
PROP. among them were just and equitable upon right and
true principles, a due sense of virtue, and a constant
Egregium sanctumque virum si cerno, bimembri
Juvenal, Sat. 13.
+ Sint licet perhonesti ; sed audire deposcimus quot sint aut fuerint numero.- Unus, duo, tres.
-At genus humanum non ex bonis pauculis, sed ex cæteris omnibus æstimari convenit.Arnob. advers. Genies, lib. 2.
Da mihi virum qui sit iracundus, maledicus, efficinatus, paucissimis Dei verbis tam placidum, quam ovem, reddam. Da libidinosum, &c. Numquis hæc pbilosophorum aut unquam præstitit, aut præstare, velit, potest ? --Lactant. lib. 3.
Παρά μεν τοίς "Ελλησιν εις τις Φάιδων και εκ διδα ει δεύτερος, &c.Origen advers. Cels. lib. I.
did they appear to be true,) affected in such a man- PROP. ner that great admirer of Socrates, Plato, that he sometimes seems to give over all hopes of working any reformation in men by philosophy; and says that a good man,* when he considers these things, would even choose to sit quiet, and shift for himself, like a man that in a violent hurricane creeps under
a a wall for his defence; and seeing the whole world round about him filled with all manner of wicked, ness, be content if, preserving his single self from iniquity and every evil work, he can pass away the present life in peace, and at last die with tranquillity and good hope. And, indeed, for many reasons, it was altogether impossible that the teaching of the philosophers should ever be able to reform mankind, and recover them out of their very degenerate and corrupt estate, with any considerably great and universal success.
1. In the first place, because the number of those Because who have in earnest set themselves about this excel- they have lent work have been exceeding few : Philosophers, very few indeed, that called themselves so, there were enough that have in
every place, and in every age : But those who set themtruly made it their business to improve their reason selves
, to the height, to free themselves from the super- excellent stition which overwhelmed the whole world, to work. search out the obligations of morality, and the will of God their creator, to obey it sincerely thenselves, as far as they could discover it by the light of nature, and to encourage and exhort others to do the like; were but a very
few names. The doctrine of far the greatest part of the philosophers consisted plainly in nothing but words, and subtilty, and strife, and empty contention; as did not at all amend even
Ταύτα λογισμώ λαβών, ήσυχίαν έχων, και τα αυτά πράττων, οίον εν XELμώνι κονιορτά και ζάλης υπό πνεύματος φερομένου, υπό τοιχίον υποστής ορών σες άλλες καταπιμπλαμένες, ανομίας, αγαπά εί πη αυτός καθαρός αδικίας τε και ανοσίων έργων, τόντε ενθάδε βίον βιώσεται, και την απαλλαγήν, αυτά μετά καλής ελπίδος ιδεώς και ευμενής απαλλάξεται.-Plato de Republ. lib. 6.